Stephen K. Bannon parted ways with Breitbart News Tuesday, and it was hardly unexpected, given his spectacular burning of the bridge that connected him to President Donald Trump. The former Chairman of the rightwing media powerhouse founded by Andrew Breitbart leaves behind him many questions. We will not see his like again, although we have, undoubtedly, not seen the last of him.
Bannon is many things; a Navy veteran, a graduate of Georgetown University, a fashion icon, and a true rabble-rouser who lingered somewhere between the undefined worlds of populist-conservatism and the alt-right. He could have been a contender and, perhaps, he will be yet. Bannon was a legend in his own lunchtime and became the man who would be king-maker. Did he lose his mind, as Trump claims? All evidence suggests that, yes, he probably did. While there is more depth to him than many realize, Steve Bannon – Steve, to his friends – has a problem with judgment.
Errors in Judgement
Leaving his comfort zone at Breitbart to enter the political fray may have been his first erroneous decision. As a media opinion-maker, he might have done more for then-candidate Trump than he did by joining the president’s campaign team. Certainly, his part in the Trump victory cannot be dismissed out of hand, but Trump won the 2016 election because of several factors – the most significant of which being that he was, well, Trump. Bannon did not even join the team until after the president had vanquished his primary opponents. After that, Trump’s nemesis, Hillary Clinton, was more responsible for the president’s victory than was Bannon.
Once in the White House, Bannon fell victim to that irresistible lure of power. Indeed, he may have seen himself as the power behind the power, but he found himself – or placed himself – on the wrong side of the president’s trusted advisors and, worse, family members; Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. They were not his greatest foes, however. Two far more formidable characters brought about his downfall.
His Own Worst Enemy
The first of those two characters was himself. Thinking, perhaps, that he could carve out his own little empire at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he fed information to the media that appeared, primarily, to make himself look more influential than he was. As the hubris overtook him, Bannon then failed to understand the danger of the Michael Wolffe at the door. Wolffe was an attention-hungry, second-rate journalist who fancied himself the man who could bring down the president. Bannon gave Wolffe access to the Whitehouse, along with a couple of juicy quotes for the latter’s fanciful hit-job book. He was sowing the seeds of his own demise.
The second aforementioned formidable character who ended Bannon’s brief career in politics was White House Chief of Staff John Kelly – a man for whom the word formidable may have been created. Kelly was brought in to clear the field, so to speak; to cut the brush, streamline operations, and ensure that the Good Ship White House would not suffer the same fate as the Titanic.
So, Steve Bannon was out; him and his several layers of clothing. He quickly slid back into his position at Breitbart News, but then Michael Wolffe’s book came out. Although, clearly, a work of fantasy more imaginative than Lord of the Rings, Wolffe had quoted Bannon’s less-than-glowing opinions of the Trumps. In particular, he attached the word “treasonous” to the actions of Don Jr.
Throwing his unspecified weight behind Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore was another error in judgment. While the president’s own endorsement of accused sexual predator Moore was more a bid to keep Democrat Doug Jones out of the Senate, Bannon went all out for the controversial Alabamian, thus alienating – if he had not already done so – not only the Republican establishment but many appalled conservatives too.
Despite a belated attempt to assuage the president’s fury over his disparaging remarksto Wolffe, Steve had gone too far. His financial benefactor, the Mercer family, may already have disowned him, but this was the last straw. Bannon’s departure from Breitbart was virtually inevitable.
Whither now, then, for Steve Bannon? This is surely not farewell. Before Breitbart, Bannon cut his teeth on documentary film-making and, perhaps, that is, once again, in his future. No, we have not heard the last of Steve Bannon. The great poet Dylan Thomas may have been referring to Steve when he wrote:
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Adieu, Steve Bannon, but this is probably not goodbye. We await your next incarnation with bated breath.